Happy New Year to everybody! Wishing people all the best, etc etc., I am filled with hope that 2018 will be a GREAT YEAR!
Segue: Exactly 100 years ago it was 1918! World War I was still raging, and still chewing up lives. And the Bolshevik Party have just assumed governmental authority in the former Russian Empire. And the Ukrainian Rada are trying to govern their patch of the Empire, as well. About all of which which important events is this series of posts, based on this piece in VZGLIAD by reporter Dmitry Lyskov.
Where we left off, Lyskov has refuted that part of Ukrainian “national” historiography which maintains that the Soviet of Peoples Commissars (=Sovnarkom) had demanded (December 1917) that the Ukrainian Rada disband and turn over its governmental functions to the Soviets. The Sovnarkom did no such thing, as proved by the actual text of the telegram, linked by Lyskov and translated by myself. The Sovnarkom conceded that the “Ukrainian people” had the right of self-determination, they even had the right to secede from Russia, even if governed by a bourgeois Rada, if such be the will of the people. What the Sovnarkom could not tolerate was the treachery of the existing Rada in taking a side in the burgeoning civil war and class war — the side of Ataman Kaledin!
Ukrainian historians also distort, according to Lyskov, when they claim that the “ultimatum” in the telegram was addressed to the Ukrainian people. As in “We, nasty Great Russians, hereby bully you, the Little Ukrainian people.” No Sir, the ultimatum was addressed to the bourgeois Rada. The telegram consisted of a manifesto addressed to the Ukrainian people, going over the heads of their government directly to the people (that’s what a manifesto does). The manifesto explained with perfect clarity why the Sovnarkom considered it necessary to address an ultimatum to the Rada which claimed to speak in the name of the Ukrainian people. And it did not concern itself with ideological issues, such as recognition of the soviets, but rather with very practical issues, such as the dislocation of troops and the conduct of the war. The devil is in the details, as Lyskov remarks!
Of course, all of us who write blogs or read blogs know, just how easy it is, to have one’s actual words on paper distorted. Sometimes by clever enemies and sometimes by ignorami. In the Ukrainian case, the Nationalist side has always sought to portray all of Ukrainian history as just one long “war of nations”, namely Ukraine vs Russian invaders! They can even get very personal (and very racist), accusing Russians of being brutish Mongols, just out to rape and pillage Holy Ukraina. All of which is as complete and total a distortion as, say, portraying English history as just a long series of national (and race) wars between England and France! Ukrainian nationalists see the entire world through a particular set of distorted mirrors which unites all racially pure “Ukrainians” regardless of class; against all racially-impure “Russians”, again regardless of class. Which is a completely simplistic “theory” that cannot account for the real facts at all, let alone sustain any level of complexity, when confronted with historical annals, archives, or even the simple text of telegrams.
Sovnarkom Demand: Keep Troops In Place
Let us address the first demand of the telegram: the Rada’s attempt to move Ukrainian units from the front. In conjunction with their “Decree on Peace”, the new Bolshevik government in Russia, calling for negotiations to end the war, had promised the so-called Allies (England and France) that they would (at least for now) leave all Russian troops in place. The Allies were rightfully worried that if Russian soldiers went home, then German soldiers would be free to leave their positions on the Eastern front and relocate to the Western front, namely against England and France. This was an important bargaining chip in the Bolshevik attempt to force the other governments to a truce. The Ukrainian Rada was busy ruining this bargaining chip by moving Ukrainian units away from the front. As the front disintegrated, it gave the Germans a temporary advantage.
Recall that the Bolsheviks officially were “neutral” in this imperialist war between Germany and the Allies. But the Russian side had inherited, from the Tsar, a war in which their army faced off against Germans. The irony here, of course, is that Lenin has been accused, like forever, by his enemies, including Great Russian Nationalists, of being a German spy. And while it is very true that Lenin was a Germanophile all his life and even tilted towards Germany in the war (that’s just how much he hated the Romanov dynasty), he had now attained a position where he was responsible for the conduct of the Russian state. Just like Catherine the Great arriving to rule Russia, it was now time for Lenin to switch sides. If Lenin had truly been a German spy, and not the internationalist communist revolutionary he had “pretended to be” all his life, then he would have personally led all the Russian troops home and allowed the Germans to swarm Westward. Instead, he and the other Soviet leaders decided, the prudent thing to do at this conjuncture, was to leave the troops in their positions and attempt to get all sides to the peace table as soon as possible.
Sovnarkom Demand: Stop Helping Kaledin!
That part of the telegram concerning the Rada’s assistance to White Ataman Kaledin, also proves that the Sovnarkom was not dealing with abstract issues of Ukrainian statehood or their right to be governed by a Rada (if such be the will of the people). It concerned this particular Rada and its unacceptable behavior in regard to Kaledin. Lyskov accentuates that particular statement in the telegram: “[By these actions], the Rada has forced us, without hesitation, to declare war against it, even if it were the formally recognized and indisputable organ of the highest governmental authority of the Ukraine.”
It is crystal clear from this, that the Sovnarkom regarded itself as in a state of war against this particular Rada (as also in a state of war against the Kaledinites), and not against the Ukrainian people or statehood. Once again, the Ukrainian nationalists have it all backwards, when they claim that the Bolsheviks/Communists were out to destroy Ukrainians as a people. The reality was actually the exact opposite: the Bolsheviks were among the very few people on this planet who actually regarded Ukrainians as a real thing, and not just some made-up pseudo-nation. And again, this doctrine came mostly from Lenin and his unwavering support of all ethnic minorities and all peoples making up what he called that “Great Prison of Nations”, i.e., Russia!
Next: Lyskov deals with the allegation that the Red Army “invaded” the Ukraine and seized Kharkov.
[to be continued]